Information outputs and AONB monitoring

In document Areas of outstanding natural beauty management plans a guide (Page 104-107)

Community Fund ( distributes money raised by the National Lottery to support charities and

Appendix 3: Information sources and data for AONB planning

III. Information outputs and AONB monitoring

Monitoring AONB condition involves assessing changes through the comparison of information from different times. It is an important element of AONB management and a vital input to the Plan review. It enables the AONB team, AONB partners and others to understand how the landscape is being conserved or enhanced, how its enjoyment by the public has been secured, and how the social and economic wellbeing of local communities may have changed.

Monitoring may involve the comparison of broad datasets or repeated surveys over time (‘surveillance’), and this may be facilitated by GIS techniques. More usefully, it is selective, closely related to AONB management objectives and targets, and involves the selection of indicators. Key indicators which measure the quality of an AONB or its management should be:

Expressed in terms that the interested public can understand

and relate to.

Relevant to specific Management Plan policies and to stated

management targets, and sensitive to change.

Capable of replication to show trends and change over time and

permit the identification of baselines or bench-marks.

Applicable at a range of scales in order that data can be split down

to a ward or parish level and also understood at a county, regional or national level.

Be based on standard procedures wherever possible in order to

contribute to national or regional datasets and to enable

comparisons, for example with adjacent areas or with other AONBs.

Complementary to or integrated with other indicators, including

the government’s published ‘Quality of Life Counts’ and to the Countryside Agency’s ‘State of the Countryside’ reports.

Such ‘State of the AONB indicators’ may sometimes be expressed as multiple indices of AONB quality. These enable raw statistics to be presented in a robust and meaningful package, and they provide an effective input to ‘State of the AONB’ reports. Monitoring and reporting on progress against management objectives is defined as a core

function for an AONB staff unit in the Countryside Agency’s funding policy (see Appendix 2: AONB funding on page 78).

Indicators must always be appropriate to the AONB and to

management objectives. However where it is possible to do so, it may be useful to link them to the Countryside Agency’s State of the Countryside

thematic indicators1. These are related to DEFRA’s Rural White Paper

headline indicators2and Quality of Life indicators3(Box A3iii overleaf).

Most of them are currently in development, however it is likely a sufficient number will be formalised by the end of 2002 to enable some linkages with internal AONB monitoring. This will facilitate between AONB ‘snapshot’ comparisons as well as comparisons with national data.

1. The state of the countryside 2001, 2001, CA 61, Countryside Agency.

2. DETR. 2000. Our countryside: the future. A fair deal for rural England. Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, 2000 CM 4909. London: The Stationery Office. See also House of Commons Select Committee, 1996 Third Report: Rural England; The Rural White Paper, vol. 1.

3. DETR. 1999. Quality of Life Counts. Indicators for sustainable development for the United Kingdom: a baseline assessment. London: Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Box A3iii

Examples of Countryside Agency ‘State of the Countryside’ thematic indicators and Rural White Paper headline indicators

Countryside Agency State of the Related DEFRA/Rural white Paper Countryside thematic indicator headline indicator

1. Change in countryside character 11. Change in countryside quality

– including biodiversity, tranquillity, heritage and landscape character

2. Biodiversity 12. Populations of farmland birds and condition of SSSIs

– wild bird populations

– area of ancient semi-natural woodland – extent and management of SSSIs

– Biodiversity Action Plan progress against targets – Sustainable woodland management

3. State of natural resources 13. Rivers of good or fair quality and air quality

– rivers of good or fair quality (low level ozone) in rural areas

– soil quality – air quality

19. How people use the countryside 14. Numbers of people using the countryside and types of visit; kind of transport; and level and type of spend

20. Public concern for the countryside No equivalent.

6. Community vibrancy 15. Community vibrancy

7. Income levels and distribution 2. Low income:% of people in rural areas in low income bands

10. Total income from farming and off- farm income 14. Rural mobility 5. Proportion of households in rural areas within about 10

minutes walk of a bus service

15 Market town prosperity 8. Proportion of market towns that are thriving, stable or declining(based on service provision, business activity, and employment)

Box A3ivLifescapes

‘Lifescapes’ is a programme funded by English Nature aimed at integrating biodiversity with sustainable rural management. The aim is to bring different sectors of the community together, to share information and views. It is focused on four of English Nature’s Natural Areas, all of which are also AONBs: The Chilterns; Suffolk Coast and Heaths; the Forest of Bowland; and the South Downs. There are no formal rules nor any fixed expectations about outputs; the aim is rather to see what nature conservation benefits can be achieved in different landscape areas. This can be assisted by providing good access to environmental data and encouraging a wide range of stakeholder involvement in debating the future of the countryside.

In the Chilterns AONBNatural Area targets for downland and new woodland are being explored using a GIS model developed by Oxford Brookes University. This will assist the decision-making process by examining the most effective targeting of agri-environment schemes and woodland grants. Financial assistance is being given to Local Records Centre(s) to improve efficiency and GIS capability. A study will examine the key social and economic factors operating in the area.

In the Suffolk Coasts And Heathshabitat data is being used to examine the way in which agrienvironmental schemes and tourism policies can contribute to the conservation of a number of key habitats – including salt marsh, reedbeds and grazing marsh which are under threat from sea level rise. The Local Record Centre will be assisted to enable environmental data to be digitised and incorporated in a GIS to develop ‘opportunity maps’ for habitat restoration.

The Forest Of Bowland AONBproject aims to carry on from the EU funded ‘Bowland Initiative’. Funding will be used to improve the data and the GIS held by the Local Record Centre and assist landscape planning. Ecological advisory services will be maintained as part of the project, feeding into agri-environment scheme targeting. A pro-active approach will be taken to achieve wider landscape benefits.

The South DownsLifescapes Project is at an early stage but will focus on linking English Nature’s interests with those of the Countryside Agency and the South Downs Conservation Board as the area moves towards designation as a National Park. The restoration and recreation of downland is a key aspect of planning for the future. Funding for the local Biological Records Centre will provide a GIS capability linking species information with existing PRIMAVERA datasets (see Appendix 4: Information technology in AONB management on page 104).

Monitoring is a matter not just for the AONB unit but for all AONB partners and it should be integrated with existing data collecting procedures (and with partner’s own management objectives) wherever possible. Monitoring should be seen as an integral part of the

management process. This is a rapidly developing area and the focus for some interesting pilot projects such as English Nature’s Lifescapes programme (Box A3iv).

In document Areas of outstanding natural beauty management plans a guide (Page 104-107)